Thursday, 26 January 2023

News

MIDDLETOWN – A Middletown woman was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence Friday after she crashed her car along Highway 29.


A report from California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia explained that Rebecca Mary Eickhoff, 47, was arrested following the collision, which took place at approximately 1:25 p.m.


Eickhoff was driving her 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser southbound on Highway 29 south of Spruce Grove Road North near Lower Lake when she failed to negotiate a curve in the road, said Garcia.


Garcia said Eickhoff's car struck the embankment, with the collision causing her vehicle to roll over.


The car came to rest on its left side, blocking northbound traffic, said Garcia.


Eickhoff sustained minor injuries which did not require an ambulance transport, according to Garcia's report.


One-way traffic control was in effect for approximately an hour before the road could be fully reopened, said Garcia.


CHP Officer Nick Powell arrested Eickhoff, a businesswoman, for driving under the influence of alcohol, according to jail records.


Garcia said Powell is investigating the incident.


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LAKE COUNTY – Senior centers in Lucerne and Lakeport have announced personnel changes.


JJ Jackson, who was executive director of the Lucerne Center, has moved to that position in Lakeport, replacing Marilyn Johnson.


Jackson said he will be temporary for two months while the center follows government guidelines for hiring, which include advertising the position. His assistant is Sarah Tansey.


In Lucerne, Lee Tyree, who was assistant director at the Clearlake Oaks Senior Center, has become executive director. She had formerly worked at the Lucerne center's outreach office.


Shirley Darnell is now director of Meals on Wheels at the Lucerne center and Debbie DiAndrea, has moved from pre-event coordinator to director of the outreach office.


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NICE – Authorities have arrested a Ukiah man and two female juveniles in connection with an alleged drive-by shooting Saturday.


Sheriff Rod Mitchell confirmed Sunday afternoon that a drive-by shooting had taken place Saturday night, but added that no one was injured.


Roberto Garcia, 20, was arrested early Sunday morning on felony counts of discharging a firearm from a vehicle, shooting at an unoccupied dwelling/vehicle and vandalism with property damage, according to Lake County Jail records.


“I can also confirm that two juveniles, both female, are in custody in relation to this offense,” said Mitchell.


Mitchell added, “We are not comfortable discussing motive publicly at this stage of the investigation.”


A “be on the lookout” for the suspects was issued across law enforcement radio frequencies about 11:18 p.m. Saturday in response to the shooting.


Mitchell said more information would be released Monday.


Garcia, whose occupation is listed as a server, remained in jail on $30,000 bail Sunday.


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LAKEPORT – The District Attorney's Office on Thursday requested that Lake County Superior Court dismiss murder and arson charges against a Lucerne man held since March of 2006 for the death of his girlfriend.


District Attorney Jon Hopkins explained that his office was dropping its prosecution of Charlton Alexander Bruff, who turns 53 on Friday, for the death of Lucerne resident and nurse Julie Gilbertson.


Bruff, a landscaper originally form Jamaica, was to have gone on trial Jan. 15.


New evidence in the case presented by defense attorneys Stephen and Angela Carter on Jan. 8 caused prosecutors to conclude that they couldn't convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Bruff was responsible, Hopkins said.


However, Hopkins intimated that his office may re-file charges in the future.


The specifics about the evidence in question was not being released, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff, who had prosecuted the case. “We still need to treat this like a pending case,” he said, adding that he was not at liberty to discuss the facts.


Stephen Carter said in a Thursday statement that he was confident of beating the case that the District Attorney had planned.


“We were ready for trial and we were ready to win,” he said. “We had a team of experts, all of whom believed that Mr. Bruff was wrongly accused and all of whom have been working on fighting every detail of this case from day one.”


Bruff was accused of setting fire to the home he and girlfriend Julie Gilbertson shared at 6804 Frontage Road in Lucerne in the early morning hours of March 1, 2006. Also living in the home were Gilberton's daughter and the daughter's boyfriend, according to the District Attorney's Office.


A report from Hopkins' office said the fire took three hours to extinguish.


Gilbertson, who was trapped in the fire but later rescued, died March 4, 2006, at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco as a result of the smoke inhalation, according to the report.


Following a five-day investigation arson – which included investigators from the Lake County Arson Task Force, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and a private insurance investigator – it was determined that the fire had been intentionally set, according to the District Attorney's Office.


However, Angela Carter disputed those findings. “Our fire experts are definitive that this was not arson. There were not multiple sources to this fire. This was an accidental fire. All of the physical evidence confirms this.”


She added that there was a “rush to judgment,” and that Bruff – a Jamaican and resident alien with speech issues and learning disabilities, who was “emotional, afraid and fully cooperative” – was an easy target.


Angela Carter contended that the house fire resulted from a condition called “flashover,” or a firestorm, because the house “had an unusually high level of contents,” which amounted to fuel. She said defense experts found no presence of accelerants which an arson dog had allegedly detected in the original investigation.


Stephen Carter said Bruff left the home wearing only a pair of sweat pants, leaving his wallet, dentures and other belongings inside. Carter said the prosecution contended that Bruff was a “vanity fire setter,” who set the fire in order to be a hero, a contention Carter called “nonsense.”


Hopkins, however, responded by saying that his office's decision not to prosecute had nothing to do with the facts of the case, which he maintained upheld the idea of Bruff's responsibility.


Rather, the decision centered on whether certain evidence – in the form of witness testimony – would prove Bruff's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. “Our view at this point is that it would not,” said Hopkins.


The central facts remain the same, said Hopkins.


“We did not arrive at a conclusion that an arson did not take place, and we have no doubt about the way the fire progressed,” he said.


He also dismissed the Carters' claims that Bruff did not make incriminating statements during the investigation. “We have no doubts about the defendant's statements, because we have a tape recording and can understand what he says.”


The Carters said that Bruff speaks a Jamaican creole dialect known as Patois. That, coupled with the fact that Bruff lost his dentures in the fire, led investigators to misunderstand his statements and take them out of context, the Carters alleged.


“Our speech expert did away with the idea that any sort of admission took place,” said Angela Carter.


Hopkins said the Carters divulged their information just days before the trial, although they had the information since last year. “Our view is that justice is not a game,” he said.


Angela Carter responded that the District Attorney's Office “was well aware of who their witnesses were from the beginning.”


She said the defense team wasn't going to tip its entire hand before the trial, because they didn't want to risk him going to jail for the rest of his life. “We don’t rely on the good will and good judgment of the very people who are responsible for prosecuting an innocent man.”


By dismissing the charges now, Hopkins said that he can refile later if new evidence supports it. If they had gone forward with a prosecution and the jury returned a not guilty verdict, it would have permanently barred Hopkins' office from retrying the case.


On Thursday evening Bruff was released from the Lake County Jail, where he has been held since March 13, 2006. Stephen Carter picked up Bruff from jail, Angela Carter reported.


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SPRING VALLEY – Another drive-by shooting was reported in the county late Monday afternoon, with deputies arresting a man on charges of shooting into a vehicle.


Clearlake Oaks resident Gerardo Castillo, 42, was arrested by Lake County Sheriff's deputies on several felony charges, including shooting at an unoccupied vehicle, conspiracy to commit a crime, and a felon or addict in possession of a firearm.


Authorities received a report of shots fired from in the area of Cache Creek Road in Spring Valley just after 4 p.m.


Three male suspects in a green and silver extended cab Ford Ranger pickup reportedly shot at a vehicle, according to a radio report.


The men were reported to be heading for an address on New Long Valley Road, according to radio reports.


Chief Deputy Russell Perdock of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said deputies were on scene at about 5:30 p.m. to investigate the incident.


Perdock said investigators were not yet certain of what exactly had happened or if it was actually a drive-by shooting as originally reported.


Later Monday night, Lake County Jail records showed that Castillo, who works as a pear packer, had been taken into custody just after 6:30 p.m.


Other charges against him included felony willful discharge of a firearm in a grossly negligent manner and felony vandalism. He is being held on $80,000 bail.


Also in custody was 18-year-old Gerardo Antonio Castillo, also of Clearlake Oaks, who was arrested just after 5 p.m. He is being held on felony charges of conspiracy to commit a crime and being an accessory, with bail set at $50,000.


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LAKE COUNTY – Most of the county's residents had power restored to them by Sunday following outages that resulted from powerful winter storms that arrived late last week.


Overall, it was another day of more mile weather on Sunday, although forecasters continue to predict more rain this week.


That break in the weather proved important to Pacific Gas and Electric power crews.


On Sunday afternoon PG&E reported that most of the power outages in the county had been resolved.


PG&E spokesperson Jana Schuering said about 70 people were still out of power in Clearlake Sunday evening, with about 100 other customers between Clearlake and Hopland also believed to still be out of power.


Schuering said crews planned to work through the night to restore the power supply to those customers.


About 5,500 residents in Mendocino County – most of them along the coast – were still out of power Sunday night, Schuering said.


Since the storms hit Friday, about 2 million PG&E customers from Eureka to Bakersfield have lost power, the company reported. Of those, 1.9 million have had power restored.


As of Sunday, PG&E reported that the storms had damaged 527 miles of power line, 567 poles, 536 transformers and 696 crossarms throughout the company's coverage area.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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SACRAMENTO – Summing up a difficult year and looking ahead, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday gave his annual State of the State Address.


But some of his solutions for problems facing the state didn't merit approval from a local legislator.


Speaking before a joint session of the California State Legislature, Schwarzenegger recounted challenges from 2007, including Southern California's devastating fires.


He thanked the thousands of thousands of emergency personnel and volunteers – among them firefighters from four Lake County fire departments – who responded to the emergency, and also extended thanks to President George W. Bush and the federal government for support for the state.


Turning to economics, Schwarzenegger recounted a voluntary agreement reached with lenders to help lessen the risk of foreclosures, which have hit the state hard.


He also restated his commitment to “the most comprehensive health care reform in the nation,” which is working its way through the Legislature.


Schwarzenegger gave considerable attention to the state's budget, which he said isn't struggling due to the economy. “The problem is that while revenues are flat, automatic formulas are increasing spending by 7.3 percent. Now, even a booming economy can't meet that kind of increase. So the system itself is the problem.”


With an expected $14 billion deficit looming ahead in the 2008-09 budget year, Schwarzenegger said he will submit a “difficult” budget to the legislature. “It does not raise taxes; it cuts the increase in spending, and it cuts that spending across the board.”


In order to avoid what he called a “binge and purge” annual budget cycle, Schwarzenegger said he plans to propose a constitutional amendment based on a process used in Arkansas, which he said will result in more event spending.


That amendment, called the Budget Stabilization Act, establishes a Revenue Stabilization Fund, which Schwarzenegger's office reported is a savings account for excess revenues taken in by California during a prosperous year.


The state will be able to transfer the difference from the Revenue Stabilization Fund into the General Fund in years when tax revenues are below average and California cannot meet its spending obligations. The governor's office added that the amendment will offer more spending flexibility in times of fiscal emergency.


Water and infrastructure also found a place in Schwarzenegger's plans. The state, he said, has a water system that was built decades ago for 18 million people. “Today we have 37 million people, and in 20 years from now we will have 50 million people.”


Water storage and delivery, and the fragile Bay-Delta must be addressed, the governor said.


The Department of Finance estimates that California needs $500 billion worth of infrastructure over the next two decades, according to Schwarzenegger.


Schwarzenegger said in the weeks ahead he'll be sending legislation to the Assembly and Senate to create public-private partnerships to meet those critical needs.


The governor also outlined plans to improve education by using No Child Left Behind Act provisions to turn around underperforming schools.


North Coast Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) faulted Schwarzenegger's plans, especially his planned cuts.


“I am disappointed, though not surprised, by the governor’s proposal for cuts across the board,” Wiggins said in a statement issued by her office late Tuesday. 'This proposal lacks thought, vision and courage. While some cuts will have to be made, he needs to provide more leadership in these difficult times.”


She added, “We will learn more in the way of specifics in the days and weeks ahead, but I remain opposed to drastic reductions in spending for education, health care and services for the elderly and the disabled. Nor will I support further tampering with our constitution to give this governor more unilateral control over spending. We are already required by the constitution to pass balanced budgets every year, and he already has the ability to blue pencil out spending that he does not support. He’s just failed to do so.”


Schwarzenegger, Wiggins concluded, “doesn’t need any additional tools in order to move our state in a positive direction – but he does need to make choices more difficult than what we have seen and heard from him so far.”


To see the full text of Schwarzenegger's speech, visit www.gov.ca.gov/speech/8445/.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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KELSEYVILLE – The Chi Council for the Clear Lake Hitch will serve as this year’s host to the Lake County watershed groups for a celebration of their activities and achievements.


The annual “Year in Review” will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 9, at 6 p.m., at the Presbyterian Church of Kelseyville, Church and Third streets.


The evening will shine a spotlight on the events and accomplishments of the various watershed groups throughout the county’s Upper Cache Creek Watershed, and also the two local Resource Conservation Districts.


The West Lake Resource Conservation District (RCD) will be announcing the recipient of their “2007 Partner of the Year” award. Last year’s well-deserved award was given to the U.S. Forest Service, Mendocino National Forest, under the direction of Blaine Baker.


Peter Windrem, chair for the Chi Council, will give a presentation about the Clear Lake Hitch and the activities of this group. The Robinson Rancheria Environmental Department will also be on hand to discuss their work regarding this species, and show a video on migration activity.


New this year will be the presentation of the Volunteer of the Year award. Sponsored by the Upper Cache Creek Watershed Alliance, the award will recognize an outstanding volunteer from each of the active watershed groups.


Greg Dills, watershed coordinator for the East Lake and West Lake RCDs, will present highlights of the accomplishments made during 2007. The presentation will cover conservation activities throughout the county, and is the highlight of the evening. It provides a wonderful opportunity for the community to see what these groups do. Be sure to mark this great event on your calendar for 2008!


All stewardships, coordinated resource management and planning groups (CRMPs) and watershed councils are invited to attend, and are being asked to assist with refreshments. The groups are also encouraged to bring materials that they’d like to display or share with others.


Natural resource partners, public agencies, tribes, neighbors, friends, and everyone interested in the health of the local watersheds are welcome and encouraged to attend the event.


Anyone desiring more information or those interested in helping with refreshments should contact Linda Juntunen at 263-4180, Extension 16.


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Cobb resident Roger Kinney, who lives at an elevation of 3,000 feet, photographed the snow on Cobb that fell Saturday. Pictured is a firefighter; Kinney said the fire department came to check on everyone to make sure they were OK.

 


LAKE COUNTY – Snow fell in parts of Lake County Saturday, but overall there was a slight break in the severe winter weather, with forecasters calling for more rain over the next several days.


Snow covered Cobb and the Lake Pillsbury areas, and dusted the tops of the hills along the Northshore, but there was a window of clearer weather Saturday, before rains began to return in the evening.


Meanwhile, Pacific Gas and Electric's workers were still struggling to repair damage and restore electricity to customers around the state, including Lake County.


PG&E spokesperson Susan Simon said Saturday evening that approximately 1,151 Lake County residents remained out of power in four outages, with the largest in Kelseyville.


Simon had no information on when those customers could expect to have their power restored.


Statewide, PG&E reported that its crews have been working around the clock since Friday morning to restore power and repair damage from the storms.


Across its service region, stretching from Bakersfield to Eureka, 450 miles of power line, 469 power poles, 409 transformers and 525 crossarms, have been damaged, according to PG&E.


The company reported that the storms caused 1.9 million customers to lose power. Of those, 1.6 million had power restored by late Saturday. Fifty-five thousand Bay Area customers still lacked power.


The North Coast and Sierra Nevada were among the hardest hit areas, PG&E reported.


The National Weather Service predicts rain through the rest of the weekend and into early next week in Lake County, with chances of continued showers through next Saturday.


Northern areas of the county, including Lake Pillsbury, remain under a winter storm warning, with snow expected to continue through Monday. From Tuesday through Saturday, showers are predicted.


Caltrans reported Saturday night that all state highways in Lake County remained open with no restrictions.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

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Lenny Matthews of Lucerne took this picture of snow along the way to Lake Pillsbury Saturday.
 

 

 

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SPRING VALLEY – A Clearlake Oaks man and his two sons were arrested Monday after he allegedly shot into an unoccupied vehicle.


Gerardo Castillo, 42, remained in custody on Tuesday on several charges in connection with a Monday afternoon incident in Spring Valley, where sheriff's deputies initially responded to what was reported as a drive-by shooting, as Lake County News reported.


“It wasn't really a drive-by,” said Lt. Cecil Brown of the Lake County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday.


He said that Castillo and his 18-year-old son, Gerardo Antonio Castillo, along with a younger, juvenile son, drove to a home where they asked the resident about a vehicle that was parked there,


Brown said the Castillos believed the vehicle had been involved in a confrontation earlier in the day. The car's owner denied it, Brown added.


Allegedly the elder Castillo, said Brown, “made his point by firing four shots into the back of the car.”


Castillo and his sons then allegedly drove off, but were later contacted by deputies in Spring Valley and arrested, said Brown.


The elder Castillo on Tuesday remained in the Lake County Jail on several felony charges, according to jail records. Charges against him included shooting into an unoccupied vehicle, felon/addict in possession of a firearm, conspiracy to commit a crime, willful discharges of a firearm in a negligent way and vandalism, plus a misdemeanor charges added Tuesday for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Bail is set at $81,000.


The younger Gerardo Castillo had been arrested for conspiracy to commit a crime and for being an accessory to a crime, both felony charges. He had been released on $50,000 bail on Tuesday.


The juvenile son also was arrested, said Brown.


The two young men were arrested because they allegedly lied to deputies, telling them they had been at the store and didn't know anything about the shooting, said Brown.


He added, “It doesn't look like our agency has had any prior contacts with them.”


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NICE – Sheriff's officials are reporting that three individuals arrested in connection to an alleged Saturday night drive-by shooting are suspected of being gang members.


Authorities also are on the lookout for other possible suspects related to the incident.


The Lake County Sheriff's Office issued a report Monday afternoon that details the arrest of 20-year-old Roberto Garcia and two female juveniles, all of Ukiah, in connection to the Saturday night incident. The shooting took place in Nice, as Lake County News has reported.


Sgt. Brian Martin of the sheriff's Investigation Division reported that Mendocino County Sheriffs arrested Garcia and the two girls early Sunday morning before turning them over to Lake County.


Martin said the arrests stemmed from a late night drive-by shooting in the 3600 block of Lakeview

Drive in Nice.


The three are suspected of participating in the shooting, using a small caliber firearm, reported Martin. They allegedly shot out the window of an unoccupied vehicle and left several bullet holes in the car.


Martin reported that no injuries were reported as a result of the shooting.


Deputy Frank Walsh, who Martin said led the investigation, identified the three suspects as being occupants of a late model Lexus sedan that was spotted in the area at the time of the shooting.


Garcia was arrested for felony vandalism, discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle and participating in a criminal street gang, Martin reported. He remains in the Lake County Jail, with his bail now listed at $41,000, according to jail records.


Martin said the names of the females are not being released due to their age.


Sheriff's investigators are exploring the motivations for the shooting and looking at the possibility that other suspects were involved in the crime, Martin reported.


Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Sgt. Jim Samples, supervisor of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Gang Unit, at 262-4200.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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January's skies at 9 p.m. Jan. 15.

 

LAKE COUNTY – If you hear dogs barking on a cold January night, they just might be two hunting dogs alerting their master, Orion, to the presence of a rabbit.

But we’re getting ahead of our story. Let’s start at the beginning.

In January, the winter skies are dominated by what may be the most beautiful of all constellations, Orion the Hunter.

Look at our January star chart – Orion is below Mars, which is now fading from its December brightness as it begins to move away from the earth.

Orion is framed by four bright stars that represent his shoulders and feet. There are three stars in a line in the middle of Orion – they represent his belt.

In Greek mythology, Orion was a great hunter who boasted he would eventually kill all of the wild animals on earth.

This boast angered Gaia, the earth goddess, so she sent a scorpion named Scorpius to kill Orion. Scorpius was successful, stinging Orion on the heel.

To commemorate the Orion versus Scorpius main event, both were placed in the night sky. To prevent them from fighting, Orion was placed in the winter sky, while Scorpius was placed in the summer sky.

Below Orion’s belt is a magnificent object that can be seen through a telescope – it’s called The Great Orion nebula, and it looks like the picture below.

 

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The Orion nebula, courtesy of Astro Cruise.



The Orion nebula is a huge cloud of dust and gas. New stars are born here, and we sometimes refer to this object as being a star nursery. Through a telescope of any size it is beautiful to behold.

Every great hunter should have some hunting dogs. Orion is no exception. Look at the star chart and locate Canis Major and Canis Minor. Those names are Latin for “Big Dog” and “Little Dog.” Canis Major has the brightest star in the sky, Sirius.

Sirius is sometimes called the “Dog Star,” for obvious reasons. In addition to being the brightest star, Sirius is also a double star. A tiny star rotates around Sirius like our planets rotate around the sun. This star is called “The Pup.”

The following photograph shows the Dog Star and Pup.

 

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Sirius and Companion, courtesy of NASA.

 

 

We mentioned the two dogs barking at a rabbit. That would be Lepus the Hare on our star chart. Lepus is a faint constellation originally cataloged by the ancient Greek mathematician-astronomer, Ptolemy.

On our star chart, you will note the bright full moon will light up the night sky on Jan. 15.

Keep that in mind, because in February we’ll talk about the eclipse of the moon that will happen at the end of that month.

For more information about astronomy and local astronomy-related events, visit the Taylor Observatory Web site at www.taylorobservatory.org.

On Jan. 12, starting at 8 p.m., the observatory will be open to the public. The life cycle of stars will be the featured topic.

John Zimmerman has been an amateur astronomer for 50 years. He is a member of the Taylor Observatory staff, where, among his many duties, he helps create planetarium shows.

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